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AHRI raises US concerns over EU F-gas proposals

USA: The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has written to the European Commission expressing its concerns over aspects of the European F-gas revision proposals.

In its letter, the AHRI, which represents more than 330 HVACR manufacturers, urges the European parliament and council to consider “a less restrictive policy” that would be “less disruptive” to HVACR workers and consumers.

In particular, the AHRI urges the EU to reconsider the proposed ban on F-gases which will also ban HFO refrigerants on the presumption that all F-gases are PFAS. 

“The revision lacks technological neutrality, the principle which guarantees freedom of choice by not forcing users into using any specific technology,” the letter signed by the AHRI’s senior director of international affairs Michael LaGiglia states.

“Legislation must define the objectives to be achieved, and should neither impose, nor discriminate in favor of, the use of a particular type of technology to achieve those objectives. This is particularly the case for refrigerants where hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are deliberately banned for several product categories.” 

It also argues that HFOs are not regulated substances under the Montreal Protocol and do not belong to the package of F-gases considered by the Paris Agreement and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) inventory.

“The revision presumes that all F-gases are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which is not correct as some gases do not decompose into PFAS. In addition, for those gases that do decompose into PFAS (in particular trifluoroacetic acid, or TFA), the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) PFAS restriction proposal has not yet concluded, which may decide on implementing restrictions for some F-gases but may also allow derogations for some uses,” it adds.

It also raises safety concerns in the proposed transition away from HFC and HFO refrigerants. While recognising that “extensive discussions” took place during the revision process, it calls for any transition to be undertaken from a “technological maturity” standpoint with updating of relevant building and fire codes. It also questions the lack of specific guidance in the criteria of the “safety exemption” clause. 

“We are eager to know what the specific guidance on how these safety exemptions would be granted in practice, and we kindly suggest that its drafting be the product of a proper public notice-and-comment process with participation from industry.”

Finally, the AHRI maintains that notification of the European Commission’s proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is in conflict with Art. 2.9.1 of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreement, which aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade.

The European Union’s revision proposals were submitted to the WTO on 9 November 2023. The AHRI insists that the TBT agreement requires notification “at an early appropriate stage, when amendments can still be introduced and comments taken into account”. 

“Given the current stage of the negotiations, this is not the case,” it says.

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